I don’t remember the exact age when she began filling my mouth with Dawn soap because I “had a smart mouth”; it happened multiple times. The sensations are forever embedded in my body, a harsh bitter detergent taste, and a fiery burn in my throat, and then later a mild sore throat from the lingering soap. Perhaps the sore throat could easily have resulted from the crying and yelling I was trying while it was happening? It is hard to say for sure, but here is my memory…
“Open your mouth,” mom demands as she stands behind me at the kitchen sink. I’m cornered. Before me is the sink, to the right are the rest of the cabinets, and mom blocks me from running the other direction, toward the light-filled dining room, still smelling vaguely of broccoli.
“Lean over the sink. I don’t want this drippin on the floor.” My legs tremble under me, and my heart beats loudly in my ears as she grabs at my face. Quickly, I jerk away from those red hands.
“STOP it! Right now!” She orders, grabbing me by my strong tom-boy shoulders and pushing her body weight into me, forcing me to stand still. I feel nauseous the harder she squeezes my pudgy stomach against the cold metal sink. I can feel the chip beef from dinner rolling around in my stomach. Her strong body pushes me down at the shoulders and leans into me with even more force. All the energy seems to drain out of my body, I stop trying to yell and sob quietly. Her hands still smell like the onion she peeled for dinner. The combined smell of Dawn soap and onion causes me to gage.
“NOW. Cut it out. Straighten up.” She says as she holds my mouth open over the sink. I start to sink my teeth into her scratchy reptilian hand and then stop, gently releasing the bit of skin between my sharp teeth, realizing I will stir up more of her dark, simmering rage.
“Keep your mouth open.” A plastic Dawn liquid soap bottle comes at my mouth with those red hands. I open my mouth in defeat and allow the gel-like liquid to fill my mouth. The more she squeezes into my mouth the more I gage both from the initial taste and later the burn deep in my throat.
“Mom, stop…please. I’ll… b…be………good.” She looks at me with red-hot anger. How dare I sass her like that her face silently communicates.
“Now you are getting more,” She snaps and squeezes down hard on the bottle, forcing more of the eyeball-burning slime into my raw mouth. I try desperately to spit it out as she turns toward the cabinet and reaches for a dish towel. She spins around on her heels and grabs at my mouth.
“Keep it shut or I’m gonna pour more down it.” She turns around, pauses briefly, and suddenly spins back around grabbing the Dawn, filling my overflowing mouth with more. It is as though I am drowning in this pungent slimy detergent. Each time I try to clear my scratchy throat, I feel the soap burn even more intensely. Briefly, I shut my eyes and beg God not for there to be anything poisonous in the soap. My heart beats just a little quicker. Surely, my little naïve mind thinks, my mom wouldn’t do something that could kill me?
After a while, I stare at the bottom of the stainless steel sink, and leave my mind, go blank like a perfectly cleaned white-erase board. I am on the verge of throwing up as soap and drool drip out of my mouth, mixing, and trailing down my round quivering chin.
“Spit it out.” Mom orders, holding the dish towel in one hand and resting the other red hand on her narrow hips. I feel immense relief as I spit the soap out, watching it slowly trickle down into the stinky drain. I drink water and try to spit more Dawn out of my mouth and begin clearing my throat trying to push it out, between sobs. She reaches out suddenly, and hastily begins to rub the frayed dish towel against the outside of my mouth, flatting my lips and bumping my crooked teeth here and there with that red hand. I feel as though I am getting sick, coming down with another case of strep throat, my throat burning and stinging. Hot tears runs down my tomato-red face.
She looks at me with disgust before spatting, “Get up to your room. I don’t want to see or hear from you for a while.” She watches with blood-shot, tear-filled eyes as I run up the stairs, for the fleeting safety of my room. As I throw myself onto the narrow twin bed, muffled sobs escape, and snot runs out of my nose, onto the dryer-sheet-scented pillow; the pillow feels cold and slimy under my face and mouth. I turn over onto my back and stare at the ceiling. I don’t know how long I must have stared at that white nondescript ceiling. Eventually, I fretted, the hell of “bath time” would begin.